Counterparts 101 : A Year of Tragedy Will Find Us

Counterparts - Paris, February 2016 © Mariam B. // www.plugin-mag.com
Counterparts – Paris, February 2016 © Mariam B. // www.plugin-mag.com

 

 “Looking back at what it was when we were 16/17 years old, starting a band, I remember being at our guitarist house and dreaming of this, like ‘one day we’ll be able to afford a van and actually go on tour’, and now it’s actually all I do with my life, just tour and play shows to people.”

Counterparts have started their year in Europe, joining their fellows in Stick To Your Guns, Stray From The Path and Wolf Down, which is a lot of fun, according to Brendan Murphy (Counterparts / Vocals). With “a lot of friends on the tour, it’s a lot easier than normal [being] in a bus with 10/15 people you’re really close with.”

Now these are bands of more or less the same generation that all grew up together. And having been around since the beginning, Murphy acknowledges the growth of Sick To Your Guns over the time, especially the improvement in Jesse Barnett’s vocals. “It’s so lame to say this, but the first song I heard of them was ‘This is more’ and I remember seeing them play in conservatory music center in Ontario, and they played this song specifically four times in a row, it was just really dumb, but that for me was the funniest thing in the world (…) As old and cheesy as it sounds, like Jesse improved so much from the beginning.”

Thing is that bands like Stick To Your Guns or even Counterparts for that matter, do inevitably improve themselves on the road. With such a pace of touring, they have learnt few things over the time, including what people do want to hear, what people do want to watch and how to keep pushing themselves in order to improve.  It’s obviously something anyone can’t afford to do, as it takes a lot, in terms of engagement and  sacrifice. Brendan jokes that “I don’t really like being home that much, because I don’t have a job, I don’t do much when I am home, so I actually don’t mind being on tour. It keeps me busy and just gives me something to do because if I don’t, I’m gonna sit in bed and wait until Adrian wants to go to eat and that I’ll do all day.” We know however, that some of these people just do it because this is what they feel like doing naturally, and this is what they love, which is easily noticeable even on record, as it’s fueled with their experiences on stage for a good part.

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Counterparts have released ‘Tragedy Will Find Us’ mid- 2015, under Pure Noise Records and the response to it was unprecedented from our perspective. Although it’s not easy to do a relevant outcome on the release right now, the band agrees on the fact that this album is well received so far : “I mean we were all, fairly surprised of how well received it was. Normally, when you put out a record, it’s always in the back of your mind that people are not gonna give a shit or people are gonna just hate, or they’ll say ‘it’s not as good as the other records’ […] But surprisingly, the response was really cool.” ‘Tragedy Will Find Us’ even brought them as headliners to Europe in September 2015 and later in the USA nearly straight away, so “no complaints” from their side. 
There’s something sad and melancholic about this record that is deeply touching, although music can be generally qualified as “agressive” by the average person. Paradoxically, it’s a Counterparts signature that deeply anchors even though the band’s sound in general is overall changing.
If you want to understand what we’re talking about here, there’s one strong track that embodies the spirit : Stranger kinda has it all, it has the melodic elements, the mosh parts, and it’s just a sad, miserable song. I think it sums up not only the record, but also the band. I feel it got everything that we’re good at; it’s just all what we know how to do. Stranger, or even Burn, is a good representation of the record, in my opinion.”
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  Another good thing, that probably contributes widely to this success, is the “smart move” Counterparts did, in becoming part of the great Pure Noise Records family, which is probably more sane and efficient for them, to release music and work generally.
“We were done with Victory Records – and basically, we were in a spot where there were labels interested in our band – we just got tired of being on a label that’s miserable and is completely dated and doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a touring band in 2015”, explains Brendan. What felt right for them then, was to go with a label that isn’t huge, not completely new, but with an approach that would allow them as a band to handle a few things themselves. Not that Pure Noise have a DIY attitude, but it is close to it. “They give us free reign, essentially on what we want to do with the band, and where we wanna go […] We could try and go sign with a bigger label, but it would be the exact same as Victory, it would be all these clauses; like we wouldn’t be able to have all our merch, so it would be just miserable.
We knew Jake (Jake Round is the founder of Pure Noise Records) for a while, we met on tour when we were with bands like Heart To Heart and State Champs. We stayed in contact and when it was time to pick a new label. When Jake showed interest, it (made) the most sense. So Pure Noise is, I think, the smartest move both financially and from a business point of view, in terms of switching.”


     Without any doubt, this also marks the growth of Counterparts, not exactly in terms of popularity, but in terms of musicianship and maturity. Brendan Murphy admits that he and his band weren’t the best songwriters back in the time, as opposite to now, where he feels like the songwriting itself progressed, just as much as their fanbase has. “We’re really writing memorable material – at least in my mind, whereas before it was just metal gibberish, to an extent. Now I think everybody is bringing something more to the table and we create something cool with it, which is nice […] I remember playing to nobody and now we come over to Europe and people care, whereas we were struggling to play Hamilton. It’s a nice feeling for sure.”

What hasn’t changed, however, is that Murphy has always written lyrics that are very personal to him, which is for the most part what makes people enjoy so much Counterparts. They can relate to their songs. 

With broken arms I’m left to carry my shell
With no help from the current” – Burn, Tragedy Will Find Us

If something that I write hits a kid, if someone can relate to it […] that’s really the cool part. I don’t get stoked when people come to me and say “hey man, I wanna blow my brains out too” and I’m like “Sup man, that’s tight!” cause it’s not, it’s terrible.
But some people would also come up and say “
I am sad and I do feel better now that I know you went through the same thing. It doesn’t feel so terrible because I know some people are going through the same thing.” That’s pretty much what all the lyrics are and what I more or less try to do, aside from using them to cope with myself. Using them for people to relate, feel at least a little bit better listening to them, then my job is done in that regard, for sure”

Counterparts, Antwerp 2015 © Mariam B. // www.plugin-mag.com
Counterparts, Antwerp 2015 © Mariam B. // www.plugin-mag.com

Counterparts have built this relationship with their fans over the time, which somehow makes them some kind of a community, even a family (dare I say “Fam”). This community is loyal, fully involved and lasting, which is mostly something they managed to do through the Internet. Anyone who takes a look to their social media would notice that and that’s exactly what Counterparts have understood at a very early stage.  “I do think that without that aspect of our band, I think some people might have never heard of us without how we actually are on those platforms. But even back in the day I don’t know if our band would have ever played shows in our hometown if it wasn’t for stuff like myspace.” 

For sure it’s 2016 and the Internet – and social media per se – have definitely revolutionized the musical landscape, for better or for worse. You get all the cool aspects of gaining more exposure with tools such as Spotify, which brings you new music on a silver plate, only based on what you might have listened to. These are privileges for the listeners, as well as opportunities for the artists, but the downside of it all is that the Internet can also be a band’s worst enemy. Some of them have made a clear choice not to be present on those platforms, or limit their activity to what’s necessary only, with a very limited online presence (Seahaven until very recently, or G.L.O.S.S right now, for example.) Counterparts have made the opposite bet, obviously. 

“I definitely think it all just make it easier. It’s crazy how much of impact it actually has. It can be good or bad. I mean look at bands like Senses Fail, who are outspoken with their political views. You would think that most people would think “oh this band is advocating for equal rights and feminism” and you would think that the greater population would think this is awesome, because if you don’t think that way, you’re kind of a moron. But there are people who actually get mad at this.
We were talking the other day, with Stick To Your Guns who are supporters of Bernie Sanders for President. There’s some people in America that were like 
“I’ll never listen to this band again” […] 

It could be good or bad, you could fire something off the Internet without thinking how damaging it could be to your band but at the same time, if those people are going to abandon your band because of something as simple as thinking all human beings are equal, well you don’t really want those people to listen to your band anyway, it’s really no big loss.” 
   Now connecting with people for the fun is always refreshing as well, and also builds that complete Counterparts trademark, which is banter and a lot of sarcastic jokes. For Brendan, it is obviously also a way to deal with boredom. The least we can say is that he knows how to be creative on these platforms, something that constantly occupies his mind. Contemplations along the lines of “okay I’m on a van for 8 hours, what kind of stupid thing can I say on the Internet? What kind of joke can I make?” To be fair that is also what people not only like but love about Counterparts.
After nearly a decade of being a band, these guys overall start reaping the rewards of their work and sacrifices, with more people on board and the older ones actually sticking with them and the music.
“Seeing the reaction grow, like playing the same venue as openers and then coming back as headliners with just as many people if not more. Nights like that just solidify what you do, it helps you justify what you do. That to me is the most important part, that’s the reason we’re still a band, it’s nice to be able to make money by doing this (not that it’s a lot!)” That also means no matter how big or small Counterparts could be, they at least have some sort of impact.
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 This year, Counterparts toured Europe again with Stick To Your Guns, only a few months after their first european headliner, which happened only half a year after their recent album ‘Tragedy Will Find Us’ was released. Headline tours in the US and in Canada followed, and while ‘Tragedy Will Find Us’ is celebrating its first anniversary this month, Counterparts have already announced their return to Europe, scheduled this winter, with Expire, Landscapes and Knocked Loose. That’s quite a busy schedule, and it certainly isn’t always suitable for everyone, but again that’s what they do. As for Brendan, it’s his only job and he’s “doing ok.”
What is coming next then? “I imagine it would be just more touring, write another record, same old stuff, whatever we normally do.”

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‘Tragedy Will Find Us’ – out 24/7/2015 via Pure Noise Records

Mary
I have a tendency to seek for new sounds and humbly contribute to its living. I'm a dreamer, I live for today and take the time to appreciate every single thing that life has to offer.

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